Headway brings its therapist pipeline to California patients as the state struggles to provide mental health care

Headway is expanding its mental health pipeline to California as the state continues to assess its relationship with behavioral health.

The mental health platform will help meet the Golden State’s notable demand for behavioral health care with appointments taking place in as little as 48 hours. Headway reports that, on average, patients attend their initial appointment six days after booking and subsequent appointments 7.7 days after booking. The announcement comes amidst two notable movements in the state: the July enactment of California Senate Bill 221 and the tentative agreement between Kaiser Permanente and the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

“The mental health care crisis in California could happen anywhere, and is a reflection of our country’s broken system,” said Andrew Adams, founder and CEO of Headway. “At Headway, we are helping to fix this crisis by simultaneously solving the barriers faced by providers, health plans, and the patients they serve. Headway’s ground-breaking solution supports all stakeholders, enabling patients to receive timely mental health care that takes their insurance.”

California is only behind Florida, Georgia and Hawaii when it comes to providing patients access to mental health care. In California, 62% of adults with a mental illness go untreated, according to Mental Health America.

Kaiser Permanente therapists in Northern California included demands for increased access to care during recent union negotiations. An agreement was tentatively made in the early hours of Tuesday morning but has yet to be signed.

California’s SB 221 went into effect on July 1 and requires that insurance companies ensure that patients not only be able to attend an initial appointment within 10 days of booking, as a 2020 Senate bill already stated, but that follow up appointments also be available within 10 days.

"California’s ongoing mental health crisis isn’t all that unique," Adams said in an email to Fierce Healthcare. "We are seeing the need for better care in all areas across the country. That said, California is the biggest and most diverse state – the sheer number of people who struggle to get adequate mental health care is unacceptable. There is a systemic mental health care crisis in the U.S., and we believe that we can’t solve one piece of the puzzle without solving all three. That’s why Headway removes the historically onerous, manual and fragmented barriers faced by providers, health plans and the patients they serve. In turn we have created the easiest way for people in this country to find quality in-network care, and we’re proud to bring that to California."

Headway leverages its network of mental health providers, the largest of its kind, to increase patient access to meet therapists covered by their insurance virtually and in person. California is the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, that Headway has entered as it expands across the country. Headway boasts the ability to decrease the wait time for care from weeks or months to days.

In 30 days, the platform has built out a network of providers that it says reflects the diverse nature of the state. A quarter of Headway providers available in California support LGBTQ+ needs, 15% identify as Asian American and Pacific Islander and 60% identify as non-white with 30% of providers being fluent in a language other than English, including Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean and Armenian.

Patients can further sift through providers based on race, gender, location and specialty. The platform boasts a national total of 2.5 million appointments annually and an average speed to first appointment of 5.9 days.

"The cohesion between payers and providers on Headway ultimately makes the patient experience far more rewarding and far less demoralizing," Adams said. "Headway provides patients with the real-time availability of providers, allowing them to directly request a specific date and time on their calendar. This cuts down on the tedious scheduling back and forth between patients and providers – saving time on both ends, and making availability in a provider's calendar more transparent."

Headway states that its design meets patients’ nuanced needs while decreasing provider burnout. Providers receive administrative support with credentialing, scheduling, billing and revenue cycle management. Such support saves providers five to 10 hours of work a week, according to Headway.

This year, Headway has announced partnerships with Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Carefirst BlueCross BlueShield and BlueCross NC. Along with helping payers meet the requirements of California’s SB 221, the company claims that use of the platform increases cross-functional data and insights.